Saturday, 12 December 2009

Sssh! Cylist down.

I'm feeling a little sickened. No, more than a little.

On Monday, I read on the Greenwich Phantom's blog that there had been a development in the death of Adrianna Skrzypiec who had been knocked down and killed by a hit and run HGV in May this year. Apparently, after over 6 months someone has recently been charged in connection with the death. I'm hoping this means the police have found the HGV driver but, in truth, I don't know any of the details.

Two hours later, I read on the same blog that there had been another Greenwich/cycle/HGV/woman accident at the next junction along that day. From accounts it looks like another left-turning lorry dragging a cyclist under its wheels, this time where Woolwich Road meets Trafalgar Road and Tunnel Approach Road meets Vanbrugh Hill.

Later, picked up the story from the Greenwich Phantom and put up a few lines to the effect of ''woman hit by further details.''

Today, I went back to the site and learned from the people who had posted there, that the woman, called Stella, a 66-year-old retired careworker, had died on Thursday, 10th.

So, having cycled quite a lot recently - including along that stretch of road - and knowing all about the blind spots that lorries have, the scenario is fairly clear. Lorry can't see what's in blind spot but goes there anyway, anything caught in the lorry's sweep path goes unnoticed - and all too often, unliving. I'm no good at statistics, but if my memory is correct, out of the 9 cyclist fatalities under the wheels of HGVs in London this year, 8 of them have been women. Apparently, according to statisticians, 8 out of 9 is not significant. (Do we have to allow more to be killed to make it statistically valid?)

This death, Stella, retired careworker went almost entirely unnoticed by the media. The BBC haven't covered it, the South London Press haven't. I take from this that it's no longer a story - it's just collateral damage. The juggernaut must roll on and the press isn't interested.

Why a lorry might be turning up Vanbrugh Hill anyway is a mystery - there's absolutely no reason because it's quiet (and steep) residential street. The only business that might need deliveries up there is the Vanbrugh Arms (though that's not how to get there) or to the Seren estate. More likely in my head, though, is that the driver had had enough of waiting in snarled-up traffic heading into Greenwich and was making an impatient bid for a way round the blockage.

At this point, the worldseems to divide into two: those who blame the inexperience of the cyclist straying on the left of a truck and those who blame the truck driver, who is apparently allowed to obliterate a section of the road to their left without being expected to take proper care about what is in the vehicle's sweep path.

And I've seen arguments about this on cycling websites - the risible sentences passed down to lorry drivers versus the naivety of cyclists. And while they argue....

Convex mirrors placed at lights would be cheap - they would work as outboard wing-mirrors for the truck so they could see down the length of their vehicle and also allow cyclists to see whether the advanced stop line has been taken up by vehicles, which routinely ignore them. They would remove the apparent assumption that lorries can turn into spaces without being able to see what might be in the vehicle's sweep path. The ''I couldn't see'' plea would be met with ''did you look?''

Inexpensive and it could save lives. Or do we just say ''shame?''

UPDATE: 15:00 14 December. I visited the scene of the fatality this afternoon and met a cousin and a friend of the deceased who were there to place flowers (photo above) in memory of Stella. The cousin had no more information other than that the police aren't saying anything. have still not updated the news - the site's headline still reads as it did in the beginning ''serious further information'' despite the report author having twittered ''Oh no, commenter on says the lady cyclist involved in a road accident last week has died.'' two days ago. But at least they began to cover the story which is more than any local, national press or media have done.


John said...

I think some HGVs are now having cameras for blindspots installed so that the driver can view all the blindspots on a TV screen. Some HGVs also now give out an audible signal when the left-turn indicator is switched on; "vehicle turning left" or words to that effect.

Convex mirrors don't get used on highways because they are inherently dangerous for various reasons. The ones you see in rural areas are usually put up by farmers.

Marmoset said...

Aye, some are, some are having guards fitted between the front and rear trailer axle, some have stickers saying ''If you can't see me, I can't see you'' or ''Do not pass on this (l-hand) side.'' Very few have audible signals - I've not come across one apart from the reversing signals. And somelorries do not signal.

And some cyclists are getting killed.

TfL are currently trialling the ''Trixi'' mirrors - so named after the death of a young girl called Beatrix - with a view to using them on their ''cycle superhighways.'' So if they are being trialled, why not try them out on the murderous Woolwich Road? Anything that may help to prevent HGV drivers from doing what are effectively blind sweeps behind them would be welcome. People are being killed while lorry fleets are being slowly upgraded.

John said...

I wouldn't get too excited about cycle superhighways. It's mainly going to be an improvement to signing and surfacing on main commuter routes. No real improvements to infrastructure.

Marmoset said...

John, there I agree 100%

shipwright's palace said...

Proposals for a working wharf at Deptford have declared 120 HGV lorry movements per day, 60 in and 60 out of the site along Watergate Street. It is not yet clear where these lorries come from and where they go to.

Marmoset said...

Shipwright's Palace, Watergate Street wouldn't have been able to accommodate lorries 50 years ago. Now that HGVs are so much larger and the road has been thoroughly traffic calmed (so thoroughly that it's even a pain on a bike - but I've never actually met a moving car on that road) it's even more inconceivable. It would take enormous backhanders and bribes all round to get that proposal through. I'd say that it won't happen but if I'm wrong, life isn't worth living anyway.